Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Queen Catherine of Braganza (1638 -1705) 1665c.

Studio of Sir Peter Lely (1618-80)

Portrait of Queen Catherine of Braganza (1638 -1705), Studio of Sir Peter Lely
Oil on canvas
17th Century
50 x 40 inches 127 x 101.2 cm
Private Collection, England
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This richly decorated portrait of Charles II's consort is a striking example of Lely's ability to produce a vibrant yet functional courtly image. The velvety sheen and movement captured in the Queen's dress and drapery as well the contrasting textures of carved gold and smooth silk are demonstrative of the artistic mastery for which Lely was renowned. As a royal portrait, this image and duplications of it would have been utilised by loyal followers of the court both in England and abroad who wished to demonstrate their allegiance in a public manner.

Born to King John IV of Portugal and the daughter of the Duke of Medina Sidona, Catherine's politically strategic union with Charles had been plotted since her earliest years. After a number of complications in her marriage settlement, Catherine set sail for England in April 1662. Her alliance with Charles II in June of that year proved beneficial for both Portugal, who no longer feared attack from Spain, and England who gained Tangiers, Bombay and full trading privileges in the Indies. Noted for her Catholic piety and simple tastes, the young queen found the abandonment of Restoration court life not always to her liking. Although she participated in celebrations and admitted to her enjoyment of dancing, she often found herself the subject of ridicule, particularly after being publicly slighted by her husband in favour of Lady Castlemaine. Throughout their marriage Charles' affections waxed and waned for his wife, though he was frequently present at her sick bed and was known to have enjoyed her company. Catherine outlived her husband, who died in 1685, and continued to reside in England until friction with William and Mary made it necessary for her to leave the country in 1692. She died in 1705 after a sudden attack of colic and was buried at Belem.

Sir Peter Lely, born in Westphalia in 1618 enjoyed nearly twenty years of royal patronage as Principle Painter to the King. As the leading portraitist of his day he was able to paint Parliamentarians while retaining the favour of England's most illustrious families. Influenced by Van Dyck, Lely''s work resonates with a use of light and depth which has come to characterise the seventeenth century English Baroque portrait.
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